Public Services > Healthcare

Dunscombe sets out NHS Digital Academy role

David Bicknell Published 07 September 2017

Academy chief executive says of equal importance to people’s personal development is the wider impact the academy will have on the digital healthcare profession


The NHS Digital Academy’s chief executive, Rachel Dunscombe, has discussed the launch of the new NHS Digital Academy ahead of its launch at NHS England’s Health and Care Innovation Expo on September 11.

In a post on the NHS Transformation blog , Dunscombe described the background to the Academy’s launch, reiterating the comments last year from Professor Bob Wachter that if the NHS is to revolutionise care through better use of technology and data, it must engage with and educate chief clinical information officers (CCIOs), chief information officers (CIOs) and aspiring digital leaders so they become a force for innovation and change.

Dunscombe said, “This is the Academy’s ambition: to nurture strong digital leaders who are capable of delivering transformational change so that patient care, and the way that organisations operate, can benefit from the many improvements and innovations modern technology has to offer.

“We’re doing this by offering the first ever national, fully funded development programme in change management, leadership and clinical informatics. By 2020 we expect to have trained 300 digital leaders, and supported a network of passionate informatics professionals who have the right skills and vision to accelerate the digital transformation of the NHS. It’s a bold challenge, and one to which I’ll be bringing all of my experience and enthusiasm.”

Dunscombe explained that as well as being the Academy’s CEO, she is also director of digital at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust and Pennine Acute Hospital Trust.

“Last year was a great one for us, as Salford were named most digitally mature organisation in the NHS by NHS England, and we also won the Digital Health’s Digital Trust of the Year award.

“Whilst we are incredibly proud of these achievements, the thing that provides most job satisfaction for me is not accolades, but seeing how the changes we’ve made are improving patients’ lives and helping staff to work smarter. Reflecting our Global Digital Exemplar (GDE) journey so far, we have achieved a great deal to benefit our patients. The programme of Digital, Reliable and Replicable Care has reduced hospital acquired thrombosis by 50%. We have implemented 100% delirium and dementia screening at point of entry with new clinical decision support tools.”

She continued, “It’s changes like this that demonstrably improve our citizens’ outcomes, and which keep my team and our CCIOs driven on our continued journey towards digitally enabled transformation. It’s also this patient and frontline focus that will continue to motivate me as I build the Academy, working now with an entirely different team: one which includes people from Imperial College London’s Global Institute of Health Innovation (the lead delivery partner), The University of Edinburgh, Harvard Medical School and partners from across health and care.”

Dunscombe said that, “Because we’re a multidisciplinary team, we get to benefit from the experience of people like me – who have a deep understanding of the practical, NHS digital leadership side of things – and that of a brilliant set of designers and researchers who are world leaders in innovation in health and learning. Our end goal is a bespoke programme that is exactly right for digital leaders in health and care: one that understands and responds to the real challenges they face.”

She pointed out that of equal importance to people’s personal development is the wider impact that the Academy will have on the profession as a whole.

She said, “It’s a big thing for the field of health and care informatics, as it recognises the importance of CIOs, CCIOs and those delivering digital roles to the NHS, and demonstrates that they’re worthy of investment. Also, the Academy will place a lot of emphasis on working together as professionals to provide peer support and critique. We will facilitate the development of a self-sustaining, professional alumni network, as it’s important to us that people continue to work together and support each other long after they’ve left the Academy.

She concluded, “We think that the Academy will make a big contribution in the shift towards maturity for my profession. I like to use the analogy of the nursing profession, which professionalised and moved to a formal qualification structure from the early 2000’s. As a profession it is now rock solid: with a strong professional body, and a clear career pathway supported by accreditation and many CPD opportunities. There are already many fantastic projects and pockets of activity working towards this end goal of professionalising informatics, and we are very excited to be joining them.”

Dunscombe said a new website and Twitter account for the Academy will be launched shortly.


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